Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Aline’s Home Office- File Cabinets, Part I

I love file cabinets. I don’t know how people live without them. When my youngest daughter turned twelve she surprisingly requested a file cabinet for her birthday. I guess she saw me use mine all the time, it looked liked fun and she wanted one, too. It IS fun. The flat file is one of the greatest inventions ever. Every paper has a place and you can always find what you want but ONLY IF YOU FILE IT.

File cabinets play a central role in Aline’s home. She has plenty of them but she doesn’t fully exploit their usefulness. She needs to get papers off her horizontal surfaces - the floor, tables, book shelves – and into her file cabinets.

To make it worse, years ago her partner boxed up a lot of these piles of papers to make room for a new floor installation. Then boxes sat there, for years, being an eyesore and taking up floor space. She didn’t even know what papers were in them.

Her priority with my time was finding a document she suspected was in one of the boxes, so we started our paper purge there. I worked as a coach, encouraging her to divest herself of random papers we came across during the search.

We sorted the papers and other items into boxes for:
Yard sale
And a special box of ephemera from her religious movement to send to a library for their archives.

She got into a paper tossing rhythm but she couldn’t bring herself to part with the folders and binders we emptied. Her instinct was keep them and other office supplies to be reused. My belief is the less you keep, the less likely you are to fill them up. She agree to keep only a few.

When we finished for the day we had found the missing document. But more impressive, we reduced 18 boxes to five - two to file, two with small papers and photos that remained to be sorted and one with papers to shred.

This was the first step in reclaiming space in the office she and her partner share. She has a lot of next steps ahead of her and most of them involve file cabinets:

1. She needs to clear outdated papers from her file cabinets so she has space to file the papers she wants to keep.

2. Once their contents are reduced she should move her file cabinets to arrange “like with like.” A black file cabinet in the living room could join the matching one in the office. Placed side by side they would create a larger horizontal surface. If she moves her two three-drawer file cabinets next to each other under her printer shelf, they will create a larger horizontal space where she could store printing supplies.  If she can reduce the need for so many file cabinets, it will reduce the furniture in her small condo, which will expand her space.

3.  Then she can clear off her desk because she’ll have places to file current papers.

4. Her last step is to take everything off her bookshelves, clean them and re-shelve only the books she will actually read again or use for reference.

We’ll check in later on her progress.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Amy’s Office


Amy won my basic two-hour assessment at an auction. She is a minister and wanted to rearrange her office to add some privacy and comfort when she met with her parishioners. In our two hours together she learned how to evaluate, eliminate and integrate her office furnishings.

We began by reviewing the plan for furniture rearrangement she created with room design software on her computer. I explained a few of the how to’s for organizing and design, made suggestions for improving her layout. She had many bookshelves scattered around the room. I suggested she group them into a single wall unit. We decided she could live without the return L portion of her desk which would free up a lot of room and give her more flexibility in where she could place her desk. We switched a few chairs with another church office so that hers all had complementary upholstery and planned for them to be grouped in a comfortable conversation area. And then we dug in and began the massive job of sorting and reducing her paperwork and library so that she could get to the fun part - moving the furniture.

Luckily, the church was having a yard sale that very day so we had a convenient and instant place to recycle books and possessions she no longer needed. I suggested ways she could free her office from years worth of thank you tokens from her congregation and still keep the sentiment of those special gifts. We started by removing the inscribed flyleaf from a book - a book she would never read again – and putting the sweet note in a scrapbook. Then the book went into a box of things to pass on.
I gave her permission to let go of other gifts she had been given. A gift is given to you. It is yours. You can do what you want with it. Even though the green movement has made re-gifting acceptable, there are things that are still hard to part with. To remember them she could take photo of it before she passed the item on, or use it in a different room or for a different purpose than it was intended.

By the end of our session Amy had specific boxes for:
· Things to file
· Things to return or re-gift
· Trash
· Recycle
· Yard sale

She also had a plan of what to do next and the momentum to it:
· Continue to evaluate every single item in the room
· Clear out her flies to make room for the current files
· Arrange for help moving her furniture
· Hang a curtain rod over her large window with curtains that can be closed for a private consultation

I went back this Sunday to see how she has progressed.

She still has more work to do but this is huge improvement. She gained more floor space by removing the desk L. She moved her desk under her windows so she can enjoy the courtyard view and see who is coming. The conversation area is much more cozy and the books are all in one spot. With just a few more discards, filing, and hanging some artwork she is done!

"After" - mostly. Just a bit more work to complete it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jennifer's Basement

I get so excited about the possibilities of each project that I dive right in and forget to take either a "before" photo or an "after" photo or both! Here is a project where I have a "before" and a "during." Some day I'll go back for the "after." In this case, by the time we were finished I think I was just too tired!

Jennifer's basement BEFORE

Jennifer is an artist who has many collections of interesting things she may one day use to make art: cards, suitcases, ceramics, galvanized tin. She also collects dishware that appeals to her. She is pretty organized and has a huge basement to stash all this stuff but it got to the point where just had way too much. She couldn't find things, they weren't put away in the right categories and she needed help.

We evaluated what we could get done in a morning, prioritizing what would make the biggest impact on her space. First off, organizing and slimming down the excess dishware would create more storage space for the art supplies.


This is just some of the items for her to take to a dish re-sale store.

Clearing out the dishes allowed us to create a central space for art supplies including odd items for assemblages. We consolidated all her linens in a dresser that was stored in the basement and used her suitcase collection to house seasonal clothes. Gift wrap was corralled in her basket collection. After she realized she would rather make art than spend her time repairing, refinishing or repainting the damaged furniture she had stored, we carted it off to the alley behind her house and where it miraculously disappeared between our trips to the basement for more.

There is still more to do but now things are easier to find and there are less things crying out for her attention. The guys driving by the alley were happy and she stands to recover some money from the dish re-sale shop. The most important thing is that she has more room for what really matters to her: her art.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Melinda's Closet

Melinda's half of the walk in closet she shares with her husband was overflowing. It made her feel chaotic to go in there. She had gorgeous clothes she couldn't locate quickly. We removed everything from the closet, used more efficient hangers & started over.


This is part way through the project. It took about four hours plus a little of her time after I left. She took 4 or 5 large bags to Goodwill.